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Abstract:We introduce the notion of weak convexity in metric spaces, a generalization of ordinary convexity commonly used in machine learning. It is shown that weakly convex sets can be characterized by a closure operator and have a unique decomposition into a set of pairwise disjoint connected blocks. We give two generic efficient algorithms, an extensional and an intensional one for learning weakly convex concepts and study their formal properties. Our experimental results concerning vertex classification clearly demonstrate the excellent predictive performance of the extensional algorithm. Two non-trivial applications of the intensional algorithm to polynomial PAC-learnability are presented. The first one deals with learning $k$-convex Boolean functions, which are already known to be efficiently PAC-learnable. It is shown how to derive this positive result in a fairly easy way by the generic intensional algorithm. The second one is concerned with the Euclidean space equipped with the Manhattan distance. For this metric space, weakly convex sets are a union of pairwise disjoint axis-aligned hyperrectangles. We show that a weakly convex set that is consistent with a set of examples and contains a minimum number of hyperrectangles can be found in polynomial time. In contrast, this problem is known to be NP-complete if the hyperrectangles may be overlapping.